When I pick a few bass notes on the new Taylor 814ce DLX, first with my thumb and then a plectrum, I’m struck by its richness and depth of sound. Traveling across all six strings and up the neck, both picking gently and really digging in, I’m impressed by the guitar’s evenness and clarity in all registers, as well as its warm natural reverb. It’s immediately obvious that Taylor—which for decades has been raising the bar on the modern steel-string guitar—has taken its flagship model to the next level.
When the brilliant young instrument maker and musician Andy Powers took over as master luthier at Taylor Guitars several years ago, one of the first things he did was overhaul the 814ce and its 800-series counterparts. He tweaked its bracing patterns, wood and finish thicknesses, and cosmetic appointments; he began using animal proteins in gluing the sound-transferring parts of the guitar. The instrument also received a new electronics package, the Expression System 2. It was arguably one of Taylor’s finest guitars to date.
The 814ce DLX is even better.
The DLX, or Deluxe, designation refers to a trio of new upgrades: Adirondack spruce bracing, said to turbo-charge the sound; a rounded rosewood armrest, which not only feels, but looks great; and ultra high-performance Gotoh 510 tuners with their 21:1 gear ratio. It can be made even more deluxe with options like an Adirondack spruce soundboard ($600), Milagro Brazilian rosewood back and sides ($7,700), and gold Gotoh 510s with black buttons ($220).
As is expected from a high-end Taylor guitar, our 814ce feels luxurious and well-built. An especially nice set of Indian rosewood—deeply colored and straight-grained—was used for the back and sides, and the finely grained Sitka spruce used for the soundboard is similarly premium. On the guitar’s body, the 3.5-mil-thick (that’s three and a half thousandths of an inch) finish is perfectly smooth and glossy. The classy wooden appointments—the maple binding and rosewood edge trim and pickguard—are all perfectly flush and tidy.
A Guitar for All Styles
Thanks to a top-notch fretwork and a perfect factory setup, along with Taylor’s streamlined C-shaped neck, the 814ce plays extremely well—as easily and quickly as a good electric guitar. The neck’s satin finish feels sleek and comfortable as well.
Due to the guitar’s lushness and clarity, I find myself playing arrangements of tunes by the great jazz pianist Bill Evans, packed as they are with cluster-voiced chords. The guitar really shines in this setting—it feels like a lap piano.
It’s immediately obvious that Taylor—which for decades has been raising the bar on the modern steel-string guitar—has taken its flagship model to the next level.
But the best thing about the 814ce is its versatility. It’s based on Taylor’s Grand Auditorium body: a medium-sized box engineered with tonal balance in mind. And it responds well to any situation. The guitar is a superb choice for rhythmic accompaniment. Chords of all qualities, open and fretted, have excellent note separation and a satisfying low end with just the right amount of presence for playing in a jam or with a singer.
It’s also a very agreeable guitar when it comes to single-note work. Bluegrass and jazz lines have sharp definition and really benefit from the instrument’s terrific balance between different strings and registers.
I notice how smoothly and precisely the Gotoh tuners work when I audition the guitar in D A D G A D, open G, and open C. The 814ce DLX maintains its resplendent voice in these nonstandard turnings while proving itself to be ideal for fingerpicking cascades of arpeggios: rich and sonorous, but far from muddy.
As on other Taylors I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with recently, the ES2 (Expression System 2) electronics, paired with a Fender Acoustasonic amp, do a beautiful job of conveying the guitar’s natural acoustic sound. The ES2 would make a great tool for recording, too, alone or in conjunction with an external microphone.
If you’re a modern steel-string guitarist in search of the ultimate all-in-one instrument, Taylor’s 814ce DLX is well worth an audition.
At a Glance: Taylor 814ce DLX
Grand Auditorium with Venetian cutaway; Sitka spruce top; Indian rosewood back and sides; gloss finish
Mahogany neck; ebony fretboard; 25 1/2-inch scale length; 1 3/4-inch nut; Gotoh 510 tuners; satin finish
Elixir Phosphor Bronze HD Light strings (.012–.053); Expression System 2 electronics; deluxe hardshell case
$5,098 list/$3,999 street
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.